Growing Together: What True Sustainability Means to Us

As our name suggests, coffee’s seed-to-cup journey is an Odyssey. We define this as a long and adventurous journey, which in our industry is full of human value and highly relationship-based. Needless to say, taking care of each stakeholder in our supply chain is part of who we are as a company.

Since the early stages of our operations, our team at Odyssey has been looking for ways to make a meaningful impact on the people that make each cup of coffee possible and it was only a matter of time until our initiative, Growing Together, came to life.

Growing Together with our partners

Growing Together kicked off in April 2021 with a series of workshops for our suppliers and producing partners and has since then grown into an open-floor discussion for around 100 small and medium-sized producers, each one averaging 3 ‘manzanas’ in land. The goal is to improve the productivity and quality of their coffees while assisting them during harvest season to help them get optimal results.

Our workshops are intended to be a shared space where we can discuss ideas and best practices with other producers in the Apaneca/Ilamatepec region in western El Salvador. This aggregated information allows us to better understand the context of our partners at origin and allows them to get insights and ideas on best practices, consumption trends and industry needs so they can adapt and remain competitive in the market.

However, we understand that implementing changes to a whole operation requires investment and maintenance, so over the years, we have worked to understand the specific needs of our community.

Since money is an issue, especially in the last few years where coffee prices have remained below production costs, we have tried to offer these smallholder farmers a more stable context in which they can commercialize their coffees. For starters, we are committed to buying their coffee fruit, so right off the bat, they are guaranteed to receive an income for their work and product. That being said, we understand that the way our market and coffee cycle works, producers are not always paid or able to make the sale when they need money the most, so we do pay in advance for a portion of their coffee and provide them with low-to-no interest credit lines so they can invest in fertilizers, workforce during harvest, and implementing best practices.

Additionally, we provide our suppliers with the option to sell at a fixed net price (a sustainable one, of course) so they can sell us their coffees whenever they need the money or they have the option to wait and sell when the market price is at a high.

This flexibility in sales is our way to build a relationship with producers that fits their exact needs and that of their farms and families. However, we understand that it’s not the only area where these smallholder farmers need support.

Through our workshops, we learn theory, but we also have our agro engineers provide hands-on, practical guidance so our suppliers can see firsthand how we manage our own farms. This allows them to increase quality and yield; improvements that we obviously compensate for financially

An inside look at one of our workshops

To give you a little context on how our workshops look in real life, last month we hosted a meeting where over 50 attendees from the Apaneca region gathered to discuss coffee cherry-picking and categorization prior to this upcoming harvest season. The event was hosted at Hotel Santa Leticia and we provided transport for all producers. The next edition will be held on-field so the theory we discussed can be put into practice so all suppliers are ready to have a productive harvest season these upcoming months.

Aside from the workshop, we also met with Hexial Yanina Alvarado to provide her with financial support for the repair of a water pump for her community. The 200 families in this community receive water from a reservoir in Finca Tequendama through this pumping system, so repairing it was a top priority as we look to improve the wellbeing of our partners.

Of course, we want our impact to have a more widespread impact, but we believe that this is a good start to improve the quality of life of our communities.

Community and environmental sustainability go hand in hand

When talking about sustainability, we can’t leave the environment and our local ecosystem behind. We know that the sustainability of these is closely linked with that of our suppliers as it provides them with the ideal terroir to produce high-quality coffees.

We are committed to a green operation, to make sure that both our coffees and our environments thrive in the long run, which is why we are certifying our farms under Rainforest Alliance standards. This means no harmful chemicals, flora and fauna protection, biodiversity preservation, no child labor, and improved labor standards for all workers.

Adding on to this, we are reforesting Finca Ayutepeque and preserving 120 ‘manzanas’ of Finca Las Isabellas as a private nature reserve; which is home to endangered species such as the black-eyed tree frog (which inspired our jute export bag designs) and countless other endemic species. 

Our partnerships

It’s important for us to mention that none of this would be possible without the support of our partners and clients, such as Belco. We’re grateful to have partners, who strongly believe that community development and empowerment is the best way for small producers to achieve long-term sustainability. 

In light of this, Belco agreed to pay a premium for our coffees; money that goes straight to our Growing Together program and communities. That being said, this is only the start of our initiative so don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to get involved.

The future’s looking bright

With the support of our partners and the hard work of our team, we know that we will achieve widespread and meaningful impact. Stay tuned to learn more about future initiatives such as local partnerships, financial and economic education for suppliers, water treatment facilities, and more!

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